And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:18-20

Our mission: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. 

This past year I went through Shmita: a ten-month-long evaluation of my life and call to ministry. It’s required that every 7 years we pastors go through this to determine where God is leading in the next stage of our lives. At the end, I had to present a lengthy paper on my calling to the Shmita group. Then we were surprised with one final task. Receiving a piece of paper, a frame, and some watercolors, we were told to create a visual representation of our paper.

The picture shown here is what I painted. It’s all about Jesus. His love for me and my love for him. That’s the core of who I am and what I’m about. Then as I held up my brush to look at what I had created, a big glob of paint dripped off the end and went splat right on my picture. I tried to wipe it off, but it just left a streak. How fitting. My life and ministry may be all about love for Jesus, but I am messy and far from perfect at it. That little red mark reminds me of that.

I share this story because that is the story of all of us and of Resurrection Church. We are all about Jesus, but we are messy and imperfect. Still, Christ’s love remains, and I am amazed at what he does through us in this church. So as we review this past year and look ahead to this new one, let’s see how things are going with our five points of our vision.

1. We connect people to Jesus. 

Like that Shmita painting, Jesus is the prime focus in all we do. Last year when we held a picnic and worship in the park, or served Wednesday dinners and Thanking giving meals, held Winter Chill and Summer sizzler and Boundary Waters youth camps, and VBS and Baptisms and special events like Craig Wasner’s Good Friday and Advent evenings, and the machine Gun preacher visit, and even our new lighted sign – the purpose for all of it was to in some way help people connect to Jesus. We may not do it perfectly but it’s at the heart of all we do.

2. We worship passionately and authentically. 

People at both of our services express their appreciation for the blessing of our worship and so we are growing. In 2023 our Sunday morning in-person worship attendance increased by 11%. And for every five persons here in the building, an additional person was streaming the service live, plus many more who view the service later online. Whether it be through the traditional music of Craig leads, the powerful praise of the worship band, the messages that I preach or the weekly communion we share, more and more people are encountering Christ through our worship.

3. We bless the Hastings area.

Last year we served over 200 persons a full Thanksgiving meal, welcomed even more than that to our free Fall Festival, provided free space for over 30 of our community groups to meet – from the 9th grade High School class to Girl Scouts, support groups, Lions breakfast, and community band. Through Be the Hope we raised thousands in scholarships for youth to go to camp, supported Hastings Family Service, and ministered to orphans in Africa through Zoey Empowers. We fed the community a free dinner each Wednesday throughout the school year. And we have housed the homeless, provided emergency assistance to the needy, a cool drink of water to neighborhood kids in the summer, and a welcoming place to sit and warm up to adults on freezing winter days. This church is known in the community for caring in a way that few places do. I’m so proud of you.

4. We develop Christian leaders. 

The best example of this last year was when our own Isaiah Curtis stepped into the youth director position. Isaiah grew up in this church, helped Pastor Julie teach Sunday school as a teen, went on to be our Youth leader intern, and now leads the youth ministry. Speaking of Pastor Julie, she has requested to go to ¾ time this year so she can do some grandparent duties after school. This means that her schedule will change this year as she will be gone in the late afternoons. This also means it’s more important than ever for the next group of “Isaiahs” to step up and volunteer to be leaders in the children’s ministry. And if you are afraid to do so thinking you aren’t leadership material, don’t worry. We’ll help you grow. That’s what we do.

5. Finally, we look like our community.

This will always be a work in progress but our vision is that everyone in our community will feel at home here. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, struggling or comfortable, no matter your ethnic or racial background, or whether you are a Vikings or Packers fan, there is a place for you here, because all are in need of Jesus and every part of the church body is needed by every other part. And let me give just one example of looking like the community. Our community is not made up of just one age group. Neither is our church. In just the worship band alone last week there were nine people with someone in every age group – from teens, 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s – all working together to praise the Lord and bless their brothers and sisters in worship.

Like my Shmita picture, we are not perfect in any of these areas, but God has been so good and faithful this past year that I just want to say Hallelujah. I also know that God will be with us in the year ahead. 2024 will be a wonderful year here at Resurrection. How can it not be with hundreds of persons praying for the Holy Spirit to breakthrough in their lives. This year we will have all the things we have grown to love – wonderful worship, winter chill camp next month, VBS, and fall fest and Wednesday dinners. But I trust we will have new things as well as the Spirit inspires you and me through our prayers and guides and directs us to more fully fulfill our vision. 

Just one more note about this year, for those of you who follow denominational issues, the long-postponed General Conference, the worldwide gathering of the United Methodist Church that was supposed to happen in Minneapolis in 2020 will now happen in April in North Carolina. And we’ll have some informational meetings for those interested as the time approaches.

Other highlights from the celebration:

Kim Tharp, our Finance committee chair, gave an update. Our giving in 2023 was up over each of the previous three years. Despite some unusual expenses (such as replacing three furnaces), we paid all our bills and finished the year ahead of where we were at the beginning of the year. Also, we paid off an additional $39,480 in principle over and above our regular mortgage. The mortgage on our $1.4 million renovations is now down to $512,309. And, we have a balanced spending plan (budget) projected for 2024, with total General Fund expenditures of $745,258.

The Humble Servant Award was presented to Tony Reilly. From planting and caring for the flowers around the church, to serving up ice cream cones from his soft-serve machine, to striping our parking lot and painting our fences, Tony seems to have a hand in everything. We thank him for his humble service to Christ at Resurrection. 

Committee leadership was elected for 2024. There are still opportunities to serve, so talk to one of the pastors if you are interested in volunteering. Copies of the leadership list are in the literature rack by the front doors. If you’d like to view the brief video shown at this event with pictures from last year, use the button below.

Thank you.
Pastor Mark